Fourteen students from Tohoku University spent a fortnight in Moscow last month, as part of the university's Cross-Cultural Program with Russia (TUCPR). The students attended lectures on Russian history, Russian culture and even Russian language at Moscow State University.
"I had a unit-mate from Moscow last semester. She told me about Russia and that got me interested," said Yuki Onishi, a 3rd year engineering student. "I wanted to see Russia with my own eyes because it is not a popular place to visit among Japanese."
The students took part in field trips to local museums and historical buildings, and even had a chance to use some of the Russian phrases they'd learnt in class.
"I couldn't speak Russian at all before this program," says Onishi. "But after we learned a few sentences, we could use them outside of class. It was exciting to realise that we could read the Russian displays!"
And like true ambassadors, the students spent the fortnight making new friends. "After school on weekdays and on weekends, students from MSU took us to various cultural, historical and traditional places," said Daichi Meguro, a 2nd year Economics student. "The buildings were so pretty, but I was even more impressed that the Russian students spoke to us in Japanese! We spoke a lot and we became good friends."
Through joint project work with their Russian counterparts, Tohoku University's students gained valuable cross cultural experience and a better understanding of Japan-Russia relations. "I think many Japanese people have a negative image of Russia because of the media," said Onishi. "But it's totally wrong. There are a lot of beautiful and historical buildings there and the people we met were friendly. In fact, Japan is much more accepted among Russian people than I had expected. Japanese food like sushi is popular in Moscow, and there are many people who do martial arts like karate."
"I learned two important things from this experience," added Meguro. "One is that we should respect each other's culture. And the other is that "global" does not only mean the relationship between Japan and western countries. Every country is a part of the global society."
The TUCPR began in 2015 with a student exchange between Tohoku University and Novosibirsk State University.
As part of the Re-Inventing Japan Project funded by the Japanese Government, Tohoku University also has collaborative education and exchange programs with Far Eastern Federal University, and the Siberian and Far Eastern Divisions of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Contact:International Exchange Division